Why CIVEA members are embracing ECB accreditation

Why CIVEA members are embracing ECB accreditation.

The recent introduction of Enforcement Conduct Board Accreditation is welcomed by CIVEA and its members as the next step on a path of reform, which began with the implementation of new regulations in 2014. CIVEA members also adhere to an independently monitored code of practice, which was revised in 2019. The code builds on the existing industry standards, goes beyond the statutory regulations and complements the government’s National Standards. It promotes responsible and fair engagement and is reviewed regularly to ensure accountability is maintained and standards upheld.

In order to ensure that the code was applied consistently in enforcement firms’ policy and operations, CIVEA developed an independent monitoring scheme. This involves a compliance audit and review by an independent panel. Audit visits consist of a combination of desktop evaluation of documentation and management representations, supported by sample checking to substantiate compliance.

The Compliance, Adjudication and Review (CARE) Panel is an independent body of experts in compliance, complaints handling, regulation and consumer affairs. Its two key roles are to review reports from the code assessor on CIVEA members’ conduct and compliance, and review complaints submitted to CIVEA where a final decision has been made by a member (this only applies to HMCTS and transport-related complaints). In both cases the CARE Panel provides feedback to firms highlighting areas of concern and requests a response on actions to be taken. In the case of code audit reports the panel may seek further clarification from the code assessor before concluding its review.

The Enforcement Conduct Board (ECB) was born out of plans we were developing for an independent oversight organisation. It was launched one year ago, with a mission to ensure enforcement action remains accountable and fair. The ECB was devised through a collaboration between the enforcement industry (including CIVEA) and debt advice charities. This ensured that its objectives were shared by both sectors and its targets were realistic.

New accreditation, same commitments

As this new accreditation process is a progression of what has come before, enforcement firms are familiar with assessment against standards of best practices and responsible enforcement. Internal and external oversight currently involves reviewing policies, monitoring calls and even observing agents in the field via body-worn video footage or in-person shadowing. The auditing process is delivered by an independent compliance auditor, who shares findings with the Compliance, Adjudication and Review of Enforcement (CARE) Panel – who are impartial experts with no commercial interests in the sector.

The ECB accreditation process is much the same, with enforcement firms set to be assessed to ensure they are complying with the current Ministry of Justice National Standards as well as providing quarterly data returns and additional information to assist the ECB in evidence-based supervision. Rightly, the ECB has the powers of sanctions for breaches of conduct and behaviour, but enforcement firms welcome the opportunity to share the modern practices they have embedded into the enforcement process beyond the requirements of the 2014 regulations. Industry professionals, local authorities and the public will draw their own conclusions should any business not be open to independent assessment.

What are the benefits of undertaking further compliance audits?

CIVEA members have welcomed the audits by third-party experts. Fresh perspectives may identify areas for improvements and give insights that will lead to future industry developments. In time the CIVEA audit process will be superceded by the ECB accreditation scheme. This will create a benchmark of quality, showcasing best practice and ethics. In a competitive landscape of high-performing enforcement firms, the reputational benefits of compliance and transparency will appeal to potential public sector clients and help them to identify the most reputable and credible solutions providers.

By holding itself to account through universally applied standards, the enforcement industry has been able to swiftly adapt in times of need, such as the collaboration required during COVID-19 (bolstering responsible business practice with national health guidelines and safety rules) and most recently, the ongoing impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

How do I sign up for ECB accreditation?

Further information on how to apply for ECB accreditation, the benefits of doing so and the fees involved are available on the Enforcement Conduct Board Website.

For more information on how CIVEA ensures members uphold and maintain excellent standards, please see further information on our Code of Practice Audits and independent CARE panel.

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For general enquiries only, you can contact us by email (admin@civea.co.uk), letter or telephone.

If you have a complaint or concern about one of our members, please go to our complaints page for advice

CIVEA is unable to discuss complaint matters over the telephone and complaints should be sent in writing. This is to ensure that the details of your complaint are accurately recorded and understood which makes it easier in addressing your complaint thoroughly. Please advise if you have a disability, so that we can make reasonable adjustments.

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